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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Thank you for your service: Greater Victoria council members get parting gifts in lieu of severance benefits

Plans to let local politicians pull a pension have not made much progress since 2019

By Shannon Waters
January 15, 2023
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Thank you for your service: Greater Victoria council members get parting gifts in lieu of severance benefits

Plans to let local politicians pull a pension have not made much progress since 2019

By Shannon Waters
Jan 15, 2023
Former North Saanich councillor Heather Gartshore received a framed photograph and her fellow councillors and an art piece by a local First Nations artists as a parting gift. Other local councils provide similar gifts for departing councillors, but none offer transition allowances or pensions. Photo: Shannon Waters / Capital Daily
Former North Saanich councillor Heather Gartshore received a framed photograph and her fellow councillors and an art piece by a local First Nations artists as a parting gift. Other local councils provide similar gifts for departing councillors, but none offer transition allowances or pensions. Photo: Shannon Waters / Capital Daily
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Thank you for your service: Greater Victoria council members get parting gifts in lieu of severance benefits

Plans to let local politicians pull a pension have not made much progress since 2019

By Shannon Waters
January 15, 2023
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Thank you for your service: Greater Victoria council members get parting gifts in lieu of severance benefits
Former North Saanich councillor Heather Gartshore received a framed photograph and her fellow councillors and an art piece by a local First Nations artists as a parting gift. Other local councils provide similar gifts for departing councillors, but none offer transition allowances or pensions. Photo: Shannon Waters / Capital Daily

When former North Saanich councillor Heather Gartshore left public office after serving two terms, she was given an 8x10” photograph of the councillors she served with since 2018 and an art piece created by a local First Nations artist.

“It's framed and has my name on it in recognition of my service,” said Gartshore, who chose not to run for re-election last year.

Commemorative art given to former North Saanich councillor Heather Gartshore when she left public office. Photo: Heather Gartshore / submitted

Carl Jensen, who also declined to run in 2022 after serving three terms as a councillor in Central Saanich, ended his time representing the district with many fond memories as well as a bottle of local spirits and a set of glasses.

“I'm a big believer in knowing when it's time to get off the ride and to let someone else have a turn,” Jensen said.

While some mayors and councillors in Metro Vancouver receive severance payments when they leave office, local politicians in Greater Victoria do not. Outgoing council members continue to collect a salary until a new council is sworn in but most local politicians do not receive the transition allowances and pensions that those who serve in higher levels of government can qualify for.

Most Greater Victoria municipalities confirmed to Capital Daily that they do not provide severance or retirement benefits to former council members but modestly-priced commemorative gifts are not uncommon. The Town of View Royal, for instance, typically spends $25 per year served on a parting gift to council members when they leave office.

The City of Langford did not respond to Capital Daily’s inquiry about compensation for outgoing council members and staff for the District of Metchosin said they could not respond as council is currently discussing payments to outgoing council members in camera.

Effort to add local politicians to Municipal Pension Plan seems to have stalled

In 2019, Jensen voted against a resolution debated at the Union of BC Municipalities convention that proposed asking the province to allow local politicians to join the Municipal Pension Plan, which provides benefits for local government employees in BC.

“There was no shortage of projects to put our funds towards and the last thing I would want to see was contributions coming from our taxpayers going towards the pension plan for me,” Jensen said.

Both Jensen and Gartshore said their roles on council required part-time hours with Jensen continuing to work full time during his terms while Gartshore had no other employment. 

“When you're elected in one election and you're there for four years, there's no guarantee that you're going to carry on, either because you may not run again or you may not be elected,” Gartshore said. “What kind of pension are you going to get after you do four years earning $1,300 a month?”

In Vancouver, council members receive one week of salary per year served when they leave office, as long as they serve at least one full term. New Westminster provides a pension equal to 10% of a council member’s salary for every year served, capped at 12 years. 

In other provinces, benefits for former local politicians are linked to the size of the communties they serve, according to a UBCM report on the issue. In Ontario, most municipalities with a population of 100,000 or more provide pensions while those with populations of 10,000 or less typically do not.

While the 2019 resolution was endorsed during the conference, work on the issue was sidelined when the pandemic hit. Adding local politicians to the Municipal Pension Plan requires changing provincial legislation governing public sector pensions—a step the Ministry of Finance told the UBCM it wanted to study before proceeding.

The UBCM referred questions about the status of the resolution to the BC Pension Corporation. A spokesperson for the corporation said it would be “premature” to answer Capital Daily’s questions “as the research is still underway.”

Article Author's Profile Picture
Shannon Waters
Municipal affairs reporter
contact@capitaldaily.ca

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